- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Whether you're a foodie looking for freshly caught Florida seafood or an art aficionado who's into special events, Jacksonville has something for everyone.
RISING RESTAURANT SCENE
Everywhere you look, new and exciting things are happening in the JAX eating scene. Inspired by the bounty of fresh ingredients culled from its coastline, St. Johns River, and fertile farmland, restaurants are taking Southern cuisine to a new level. Chef/owner Tom Gray’s Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails, for example, has adopted a “full-circle” philosophy to its regional cuisine (vs. farm to table), meaning everything in the industrial-chic restaurant, including the hardwood paneling and glass chandeliers, is sourced locally. And the sleek Black Sheep is getting a reputation for such innovative toggles on the classics as fried green tomato BLT and Black Hog Farm chicken and dumplings (sliced chicken served over gnocchi). But the most intriguing of all is taking place at Unity Plaza Park.
FREE YOGA & MORE IN THE PARKS
Walking through downtown’s Hemming Park, you’ll spot signs advertising all kinds of free happenings: yoga, art walks, night markets, a chess meetup, and a summer movie series, to name a few. This is a city that loves its outdoorsy activities—and you won’t find a shortage, considering it boasts the nation’s largest urban park system (two national, seven state, and 400-plus city parks). You can bring Fido to Confederate Park; go paddleboarding at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park; take a sunset water taxi across the St. Johns River to Treaty Oak at Jesse Ball duPont Park; camp on the sand at Huguenot Memorial Park; and go biking on the Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail through pinewoods, wetlands, and hardwood uplands (keep an eye out for songbirds and wild turkey).
But the most forward thinking is Unity Plaza Park in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Centered around an amphitheater with residential apartments above, Unity Plaza is anchored by three restaurants—and not just any restaurants, but Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga’s Sbraga & Company and chef Roger Regulacion’s Hobnob, along with the wood-fired pizzeria Brixx. The concept is to create community interaction, a flow between one place and the other. The amphitheater offers activities and events 365 days a year, including concerts, a lively daily broadcast, art shows, and yoga. A big band shell for concerts and a beer garden are in the works (along with one more restaurant). You can spend a whole day here, dining, imbibing, and hanging out.